Having been invited to our first gathering at the quaintly named “D’Pelican Inn” for a 5-7 chat about all things Canadian the diplomat, Isla and I found ourselves in staring out at teeming rain, lightning and the odd roll of thunder. It was chucking it down. I found myself questioning the sanity of venturing out in Bangkok rush hour even if we had already sorted our 345Baht fee for a BBQ buffet. Nevertheless with Isla in a car seat we wedged ourselves into a taxi who promptly demanded 200Baht for the trip.
Now, 200Baht is pricy for a cab here. It’s about $5 Canadian, £4 which – to those of us who’ve ever caught a black cab in London – is very cheap, but given the usual fare is 35Baht with a meter that ticks over a single Baht every mile or 5mins, a massive fee.
“Go go go”, we encouraged him. Or “bpai, bpai, bpai”. The rain gave no pause for haggling. He turned on his single wiper and a sheet of water slid from view to be replenished by the downpour from the dark skies.
Off we went.
Now, we were going from Soi Langsuan to Soi 22, Sukhumvit. A normal journey of about 8 minutes in a taxi. The one-way system, rush hour and the rain contrived to make our driver take a few short cuts. Fair enough as the road around Limpini Park was gridlocked. It was only after about 10minutes of navigating dark soi we noticed the rising water. Then we came to a stop where a two lane highway was a single route due to construction.
We sat there. And sat there. Fed Isla some biscuits. Discovered we’d forgotten to pack any other food.
And sat there.
The water rising all around like something out of a biblical disaster story.
After a while we moved on and for some reason, took a left into what looked like a canal. I looked at the diplomat.
“Er, I can feel water sloshing round my feet.”
Now we know why the pavements that I lamented in an earlier blog are so high. They ensure the roads become rivers when necessary. And, boy, was it ever necessary as the rain lashed down harder. I have to commend the skill of the taxi driver; with his propane fuelled vehicle. He squeezed through gaps most people wouldn’t try, kept his engine revving against the water that wanted to stop us. Yet, somehow we found ourselves getting further away from our destination. An hour passed and he pulled into a gas station. Where we had to wait 15minutes for a tanker to arrive so he could get refuelled. It is a touch disconcerting to sit with a gas pump stuck under the hood/bonnet of a car and hear gas filling a canister lodged in the trunk/boot behind you. Doesn’t make you feel safe.
That said I felt for those on mopeds and tuk tuks weaving their way along, sodden to the skin. At least we had air con, and were relatively dry (bar our feet). It took another 45 minutes of navigation, soothing of a fractious baby who just wanted out, and keeping a nervous eye on the water levels all around us before we made it to our destination.
Of course, we arrived after most had left, the buffet was cold but still pretty tasty and we engaged in conversation with several people.
I told someone I was British and they politely asked me what nationality my wife was.
“Ummm, Canadian. Which is why we are here.” I ventured, somewhat lamely. Surely there was some kind of witty rejoinder I could have made? I think they realised their mistake in asking the question. So, two tiger beers later I found myself at the bar attempting to lift an 80kg solid piece of iron straight up, one handed. You win a beer if you can. Of course, no one ever has, but we’re game enough to try as the Thai staff watches us.
D’Pelican Inn is a place owned by a Swede. It has an ice hockey team here in Bangkok that seem to win trophies. No lockout for them. Every inch is covered in assorted sporting paraphernalia, bits of cars, pictures of Marilyn Monroe and probably everything else they’ve acquired. It’s got a darts board, a TV and a shuffle board. Plus the usual large space for the new Canadian diplomats to get together and chat about stuff I’ve never knew about.
So, is this what diplomacy is all about?
For the first time: “Why yes, indeed. So it seems.”